Ankle Arthritis: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Ankle arthritis is a painful condition of the ankle joint.

Before reading further it would first be good to know the relevant ankle anatomy. (skip this it you have already read the page)


Common causes of this condition include

  • fractures and dislocations
  • infections which include septic and tubercular arthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • gout
  • long standing instability (weakness) of the ankle joint following ligament rupture


Symptoms include

  • pain that is worsened by activity such as walking
  • swelling around the ankle joint
  • tenderness over the ankle
  • fever may be present in infections
  • restriction of movement
  • and deformity may be present


Diagnosis is confirmed by x rays of the ankle that show

  • decrease in the space between the bones due to thinning of the cartilage
  • alteration in the density of the bones
  • presence of bone spurs (osteophytes)

X rays in tuberculosis may show the destruction of bone.

Other investigations that may be required include

  • blood investigations for rheumatoid arthritis and gout
  • pus culture and sensitivity in infections to find out the causative organism and the antibiotic drug effective against it
  • tests for tuberculosis


Treatment includes

  • anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling
  • antibiotic drugs in septic arthritis
  • anti-tubercular drugs in tuberculosis
  • drug treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and gout
  • fusion of the ankle joint is done if pain persists even after the above treatments

Fusion is also indicated in arthritis caused by instability, fractures and dislocations.

During fusion the remaining cartilage between the talus and the tibia bone is removed and these two bones are then held together by screws, plates, pins or nails. This eliminates all movement at the ankle joint and with the passage of time the the tibia and talus join to form one bone.

ankle arthritis x ray

This is a x ray of a patient with ankle arthritis. You can see the absence of space between the tibia and the talus bone and their increased density. Below is a normal ankle x ray for comparison. You can see the joint space between the tibia and talus.

 x ray of a normal ankle joint

Ankle Arthritis FAQ

Can I under go ankle joint replacement?

Long term results of ankle replacement have not been satisfactory, therefore replacement is not advisable.

Won't fusion make walking more difficult?

No it won't. Right now you have a painful and stiff ankle. After fusion you will have a painless and stiff ankle joint.

I hope the information provided was helpful. If you have any query you can ask me at the contact me page.

This page was last updated on 2nd October 2015.

Further reading.....Click here

Other causes of ankle pain ...

Ankle Fracture

Ankle Sprain

Pilon Fracture

Tillaux Fracture

Ankle Dislocation

Go back from Ankle Arthritis to Ankle Pain


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